Research finds catastrophic inability to answer basic customer questions

29 March 2005

Cambridge, UK: Leading UK retail banks are failing to provide online answers to even the simplest customer queries. Research carried out by eCustomer service software provider Transversal found that 60 per cent of banks could answer fewer than two out of ten of the most often asked customer questions. Only 30 per cent could answer five or more questions successfully. These damning statistics highlight critical flaws in how major banks approach the online market.

The findings are part of a research survey into fifty leading organisations in the travel, banking, insurance, consumer electronics and telecoms sectors. It asked ten common, sector-specific questions on each site, as well as emailing a single question to the organisation's customer service department. Responses were marked for relevance and for time taken to respond.

While the banking sector performed strongest overall, banking websites could only provide adequate answers to three out of the ten questions asked. Additionally it provided the shortest average time to reply to email, but only 60 per cent of organisations actually responded. While one bank stood out, providing an email response within two hours, the rest averaged 17 hours - hardly the immediate answers that online consumers are looking for.

An estimated 12 million Britons now use the Internet as a way of managing their financial affairs and nearly 50% of UK consumers use the web as part of the purchasing process for goods and services . It is estimated that over 60 per cent of emails to contact centres are generated by consumers unable to find answers on company web sites.

"This research demonstrates that despite more and more Britons managing their money online, there is an astounding lack of customer service from banks," said Davin Yap, CEO, Transversal. "Our findings show that there is a growing customer service chasm between those companies that take the online customer experience seriously and those that don't. Consumers on the web want answers now - they don't want to have to wait days for an email response or be forced to call a contact centre. However, many organisations seem to be forcing customers down these channels through an inability to answer simple questions in a timely manner."

Overall, telecoms websites were the worst performers, able to answer just one of ten questions on average. Scores varied greatly between individual companies surveyed - with 34 per cent unable to answer any questions at all.

For frustrated customers forced to submit questions by email, response rates were equally dismal. 60 per cent of travel companies did not bother to answer emails at all and those that did took an average of 42 hours to respond. The highest number of responses came from telecoms companies (70 per cent) but they still took over a day to reply - 32 hours on average. Tardiest of all were consumer electronics companies who took an average of 51 hours to respond to email. Response rates were only calculated on those organisations that actually answered the question and excluded automatically generated holding replies.

The survey was carried out in February 2005, with researchers visiting leading UK websites, following a set methodology. Average results are as follows:

Sector Average number of questions answered online Percentage of companies that responded to email Average email response time Banking 3 out of 10 60% 17 hours Insurance 2.5 out of 10 50% 25 hours Consumer Goods 2.4 out of 10 60% 51 hours Travel 1.2 out of 10 40% 42 hours Telecoms 1 out of 10 70% 32 hours Average 2.1 out of 10 56% 33 hours

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